Saturday, 28 June 2014

My Dad

I'm gonna love you forever, forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men
~ Forever & Ever Amen, Randy Travis

After hanging up from a phone call to my parents the other day, I thought to myself “I miss my Mom.” You see Dad had answered the phone.

Typically in the past on the rare occasion that this happened, the conversation would be relatively short-lived. I would ask him about any recent or up-coming trips on the truck; he would ask me how my car was running or how work was going. After a minute or two he would say, “Well your mother's right here, just a second” - and an hour or so later after telling and hearing all the family news that had transpired in the days between phone calls Mom and I would say good bye too.

But in the last few weeks it has been a rare occasion that Mom answers the phone. Instead it is Dad's voice offering an update on how Mom is feeling, what the Dr. said at their last appointment, asking me how my apartment search is going and if I have had any new clients recently.

Because at the end of this round of treatment, Mom's body is run down and she is using all of her energy reserves to recover. Progress reports have been positive! But we are still in the middle of this waiting game – waiting for side effects to subside, waiting for strength and energy to re-build, waiting to see what the next round of treatment will be in the fall, waiting... 
Dad said it best the last time I was home and asked how he was doing - “Impatient!”

As often happens in the midst of struggle and challenge, there are hidden gems to find if you look in the right places. Connecting with Dad in this different way – building and strengthening our relationship in order to better support each other through this waiting game and in general – is one I have found!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The song Forever and Ever Amen by Randy Travis came on the radio the other day, and I thought of my parents. Like I always do when hearing this song. When it got to the lines:
They say time takes it's toll on a body,
Makes the young girl's brown hair turn grey
But honey I don't care, I ain't in love with your hair
And if it all fell out, well I'd love you anyway

it took on a slightly deeper meaning for me. Watching Dad cope in this situation, finding strength inside himself that he maybe never needed before – it is heart-filling! To see his own personal growth, but also to watch the deep love between my parents in action. Nothing short of inspiring...
They say women often find themselves in relationships with men that in some ways resemble their father's character. 
I say: I hope so!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Questions to change the way I'm treated

If you really believed that you deserve better, then you would have it. 
Work on you, not them.

~ Doe Zantamata

I noticed a pattern of response in myself last week. I remember it happened years ago when a relationship ended – my knee-jerk reaction to other's anger and criticism was to defend him: 

~ I really do believe that most people do the best they can with what they have in any given situation. ~

I have had similar sentiments at least twice since then, in similar situations. Situations where words or actions or lack thereof seemed unfair, disrespectful, selfish. Situations where it may have been justified to forget the prince and condemn the a$$hole. Situations that left me hurting. Still... one to always at least try to view things from the other perspective, to acknowledge my own role in how various situations and relationships play out... my knee-jerk reaction is to defend the humanness.

But the other day when I heard myself saying those words... I stopped mid-thought:
What if part of the reason I believe that and jump to defend it so quickly is because that way of interaction in relationships and relationship's end has been the majority of my experience? What if I expect and then defend it because it is mostly all that I have known?

What if my questioning of do we really deserve better? is in part because I have rarely experienced better – or even different?

I suppose I could put all that on the other people in my life, the ones who have been key members in the situations referred to above. But I'm not one to pass off responsibility for personal growth and learning. And besides, if Dr Phil's words: We teach people how to treat us are really true, well then clearly I have some work to do on myself in order to find different – or even better.

I've noticed some changes already, in allowing and reinforcing certain interactions; and in stopping others. I have pulled back from some relationships/friendships; and changed or pushed more in others. And I remember having done this periodically in the past, with friendships that were not supporting or serving me in a way I wanted my relationships to do so. But there is still more to learn. I want to step back and pay attention to how I interact with others; how they interact with me. How do I allow or encourage others to interact with me? Is this different, depending on the type of relationship? What am I teaching others about how I want to be treated?

Or perhaps more importantly - How do I want to be treated? And then how do I teach people to treat me that way?

I still believe that most people do the best they can with what they have in any given situation. But sometimes people are just selfish, disrespectful, or too chicken-sh!t to do what they know is best. That part I cannot ever change. I can, however, pay attention to earlier warning signs and not allow in my life the people that have difficulty learning to treat me the way I want to be treated; dare I say the way I deserve to be treated!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Do we really deserve better?

"It sounded old. Deserve. Old and tired and beaten to death. Deserve. Now it seemed to him that he was always saying or thinking that he didn't deserve some bad luck, or some bad treatment from others...
Apparently he thought he deserved only to be loved--from a distance, though--and given what he wanted. And in return he would be...what? Pleasant? Generous? Maybe all he was really saying was: I am not responsible for your pain; share your happiness with me but not your unhappiness." 

It's a common phrase of empathy and encouragement when something like a relationship ends - “You deserve better!” And lately it's one that has really rubbed me the wrong the way. I'm not sure if it's the word deserve or better or the combination of the two, but lately I've been wondering ~

do you we really deserve better?

And what does that mean anyway?

In my most recent experience of hearing those words, in some ways it felt de-valuing of the good that existed in that person; in that relationship; in that experience. And there was a lot of good! I don't necessarily need better still, but I would like more of that.

In some ways it sets me up for constant disappointment. I would think that my standards and expectations are already high. If I found disappointment in my last experience with so much good, how can I truly expect better without disappointment next time? Every human being makes mistakes; makes decisions that affect others. Sometimes it is possible to move past them and continue to build a stronger relationship. Sometimes it may signify that something is just not quite right and means ending a relationship that was otherwise good. Perhaps better overall is not what is needed; rather different.

In some ways it fosters and feeds a sense of passive entitlement that, I would argue, is not beneficial in any kind of relationship. This is perhaps the part that rubs the most. Why do I deserve better? In all our interactions I think every one of us has a responsibility to treat each other with basic decency. Beyond that probably depends on the relationship – but I would expect genuine care and respect for anything beyond a mere acquaintance. Not because I deserve it, but because we have earned it with each other as the relationship builds. And it's absence in a closer relationship does not necessarily equate a need for better overall, rather the respect for self to do what is needed for it to grow; whether in that relationship or a different one.

I am not advocating for “settling” with my rant here. And yes, there are many examples where it is in someone's best interest to walk away from a relationship or situation that is not healthy or safe and find better – at the very least, basic decency. But no one is perfect. Expecting that will only lead to disappointment. Sometimes we may need to weigh the good with the frustrating; we may need to take the good with the annoying. Sometimes we may all need a reminder that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. And even if it is, it likely didn't get that way without some TLC.

Rather than looking at my past experiences with a dismissive, passive, entitled “I deserve better” – I want to take the good and look forward to future experiences. Learning how I can find more of the good; how I can contribute to different that might lead towards building something stronger; how I can bring more opportunities for genuine care and respect to develop; how I can maintain the self-respect to know when to do what is needed where I am, and when to move on to something different.

And maybe with that I will indeed find better. Not because I deserve it, but because I do my best to continue making what I have in each moment better.

Tell me what you think:
I would really like to hear your thoughts on this question, do we really deserve better?, and what that means for you. Especially if they differ from mine. What have been your experiences – past or present, whether about a relationship or some other situation – with the encouragement of deserving better?

Saturday, 7 June 2014

“If I'm so f#@king amazing, why is he dating her?”

“Are you one of those people who says on a first date, 'I'm really not in a hurry to meet somebody, I figure if it happens, it happens'? Because those are the most desperate people of all. I'm just saying this so that if you are this person, you aren't hiding it from anybody.
There is no shame in being hungry for another person. There is no shame in wanting very much to share your life with somebody.”   
This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, 
Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike.

If I'm so f#@king amazing, why is he dating her?”
That thought ran through my head more than once as people tried to offer uplifting reassurance. It wasn't directed at any particular he or her. Just a general statement about others who seem to have an easier time finding or more so maintaining a relationship, that reflected the space I was in at that time.

You're such an amazing woman, you'll find someone...
You're so amazing, you deserve better...
You're so amazing, it'll happen for you...

In those moments I wanted to scream so many things in response. Instead I just did my best to paste on a smile and nod appreciatively.

But the truth is – that's not helpful. At least for me it wasn't.
Because truthfully, and not to sound full of myself, I know. Ending relationships and being single, again, does not wreck havoc with my self-esteem or confidence. That's not the frustrating or dis-heartening part for me. I know I have strengths and weaknesses; I know I have attractive qualities and a lot to offer my friendships and relationships. In short, I know I'm amazing!

At this point in my life the part that is frustrating and dis-heartening is that I find myself wanting...

Over the years I have heard so many conflicting messages about this wanting. Initially it was expected that by a certain age a relationship would just happen – the traditional life path of education, marriage, career, house, kids that so many of my family before me and peers beside me followed. There was no question of wanting this path, it just was.

As I found the path diverging however, for those of us without a relationship the message changed to don't want. It became one of patience and self-focus. No relationship meant you weren't yet ready for one; there were things you needed to work on in yourself first. No relationship meant you needed to be happy with yourself and your life. The focus became creating your own happiness – be happy with where you are and what you have.
Don't go looking for it, it will find you
When you stop wanting it; stop looking for it; stop waiting for it, it will find you.

The path diverged further for me, to not wanting. At least not in the traditional sense. The message here was empowerment, independence, strength. Not wanting was equated with not needing. Dreams were chased, goals defined, happiness created. For a time, at least.

Now what?

My path is diverging again, perhaps? I know there is more I want to chase, pursue, and create in my life-time. But there are times when I think: I am tired of doing all that on my own. It is true that this wanting feels strong in my lonely moments; in my weak moments. But those moments pass. This wanting now also feels strong in the moments of chasing dreams I wish to tell and realize with someone; of goals I wish to encourage and celebrate with someone; of happiness I wish to share with someone.

And so now what? What do I do with this wanting that for so many years I have heard to not? I struggle with it, feeling it is somehow wrong to want, to put that desire out there, and to pursue a potential relationship with longer-term hopes.

But perhaps being able to name it, accept it, and pursue with hope is one of the growth pieces I have been missing. Perhaps there is a healthy, empowered, independent way of wanting? One that does not go desperately looking for it; but rather patiently waits and is ready when opportunity presents.

If I'm so f#@king amazing, why is he dating her?”
Because maybe she is also f#@king amazing. And really one has absolutely nothing to do with other.